Follow your instincts. It seems simple, but this sort of uncomplicated and inborn advice has done a whole lot for “Project Runway” season nine winner, Anya Ayoung-Chee. From graphic designer to model, former Miss Trinidad and Tobago to rising fashion sage, Ayoung-Chee used that wisdom to help her make career decisions, and even used it in her design inspirations.
“I really am into the way that people dress indigenously. I have always loved to see traditional forms of dress from like ancient times and more tribal types of wear. I think that they knew instinctively how to look beautiful, but it wasn’t about fashion,” Ayoung-Chee explained.
The Trinidad and Tobago native shared her life mantras and more on Monday, critiquing students’ fashion choices in the Brower Student Center and during a lecture in the Mildred and Ernest E. Mayo Concert Hall. Her personality was one that many college students could identify with, whether or not they were “Project Runway” fans. In the Student Center, students eagerly lined up in their best outfits, waiting for this fashion professional to guide them through some style do’s and don’ts.
Center stage, she babbled about her past, explaining her experiences, how fashion entered her life and how uniforms were the regular growing up. “I was quite a nerd, actually” she said with a laugh.
Despite this humble admittance, no one would be able to tell. Ayoung-Chee exuded a form of fashion confidence and self-assurance that seemed completely natural. Her asymmetrical haircut similar to Rihanna’s (coincidentally, whom she’d love to design for), colorful poncho paired with skinny black pants and fringe boots gave off a vibe of pure fashion know-how. Nevertheless, it wasn’t too long ago Ayoung-Chee was in a student’s shoes
Still a student of the runway, Ayoung-Chee entered into her reality TV show gig as an amateur sewer, so learning something foreign and getting things done quickly is something she is quite used to — much like the procrastination that many college students face.
“The day before the deadline or a few hours before the deadline, it becomes very obvious that the deadline is right in front of you and there is no inching around it,” she said.
During the final challenge of “Project Runway,” Ayoung-Chee explained that she was having a difficult time concentrating. Luckily, she left with the equivalent of acing her course load — winning the prestigious final challenge and taking home the title.
Much of that has to do with her final collection, where she drew inspiration again from a part of her instincts, the nature of her home.
“We weren’t allowed to use any books or magazines for the entire competition,” she explained. “It really taught me to dig deeper and draw from something within me and that’s naturally where I’m from and I tend to visit what is instinctive to me, rather than force the issue.”
Ayoung-Chee also urged people to take their instinct into their fashion choices.
“I think everybody should have in their wardrobe something that they know they look good in, even if they have worn it 5,000 times before,” she said. “Fashion and dressing is really so much about how you feel and less about how you look because sometimes, how you feel affects how you look.”
And if that’s not enough, don’t forget the beauty of an ensemble with a pure black color palette.
“Black is always a go-to color. As much as I love color, black is what I revert to. You really can’t look bad in black,” she said. “My method is usually to distract from a canvas of black by wearing a piece of jewelry, but just one thing.”
Whether it’s an experiment, launching a clothing line, or building her brand, Ayoung-Chee seems to follow an instinctual pattern. As her presentation came to a close, she presented a quote she lives by: “Risk being yourself fully.” With all she’s accomplished, it is clear she’s taken that risk.